Two United States Army officers flew in from opposite sides of the country to reunite and take part in a special ceremony at the Pleasantville Memorial Hall on Friday, Aug. 30.
Tracy Wadle, daughter of Bill Templeton and Deanna Verwers, graduated from Melcher-Dallas High School in 1991. From there, she attended Central College, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
In 1994, she married ex-husband Leonard “Junior” Wadle, who was already serving in the military. This meant the couple moved a lot. Every time she moved to a new state, she would have to recertify and get a new teaching license. She was often placed in a role of a long-term substitute, but she wanted a career with more permanence. Leonard suggested she enlist in the Army. By then, Tracy was 28 years old and about to enter basic training.
“I was like the mom,” Tracy said of the company she trained with, “telling them to go to sleep.” She was not confident that she was physically prepared for the rigorous work required for the Army. However, she was. She also found she was more mentally prepared than her younger fellow trainees.
At the time she enlisted, she was living in Pennsylvania. Her basic training was at Fort Jackson, S.C. From there, she went to Fort Benning, Ga., for officers’ candidate school. To get in, she had to apply and be approved by a selection board.
“OCS was tough,” Tracy said. “You think as a team, train as a team.”
When she completed OCS, she was transferred to Schwetzingen-Thompson Base in Germany. There, she served as Company Executive Officer for three years. Her duties included safety, organization and arranging weapons for training events.
From there, it was on to Fort Sill, Okla., where she became Company Commander. She spent time in Virginia as well, where she worked in HR command – where all human resources personnel policies for the Army are executed. While there, she was a recorder for Department of the Army selection boards.
Along the way, Tracy attended Captains’ School, which is where she met Hope Rampy. The two became and remain good friends. On more than one occasion, Rampy recommended Tracy to replace her when she left for another position. Tracy usually got those jobs. Both have experience working in the Pentagon, which is were Rampy continues to serve today.
Tracy also served a year in Iraq, with a brigade that transported equipment from that country to Kuwait, when the Army believed the War on Terror was winding down.
“It was just very interesting,” Tracy said of her year in Iraq. She had little interaction with Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqis’ role in her mission was to warn the Army of possible IED attacks during transport. Equipment was so efficiently moved out that, during her last month in Iraq, she and her team had no cable, Internet, nor dining facility.
Tracy served at Fort Hood after Iraq. On the day she was to transfer to Fort Shafter, Hawaii, the second Fort Hood shooting took place. It delayed her trip, but Hawaii is where she eventually landed and currently serves.
At first, she was working in manpower and analysis. Today, she is working in the Joint Pacific Command, a four-star specific command on Camp Smith. The Army considers those serving in Hawaii as serving overseas, and being in the Pacific, she works with international relations.
She has Navy, Air Force, Marine and Army troops under her command. They get along well together, but each branch has different cultures. No matter what, the troops are always performing drills and training to remain ready for a threat from anywhere in the Indo-Pacific region.
“China remains a priority for the Army,” Rempy said. “The Indo-Pacific region is a challenge and has a number of volatile actors.”
“We always have to be forward-thinking,” Tracy said. Part of her job as an officer is to manage talent. This means she seeks out high quality soldiers who could serve the military better in a command role and help guide them through their careers to the maximum mutual benefit of both the individual and the Army.
Tracy has served in the Army for 23 years now. Her hard work and success has not gone unnoticed by the Army. Effective Aug. 1, she was promoted from Lt. Colonel to Colonel.
Promotions are often done with one’s unit, but Tracy had a special request to receive her Colonel stripes in Pleasantville.
Prior to her father’s recent health scare, she came home once a year. In addition, her siblings had never been able to attend any of her promotion ceremonies. As her father is active in the American Legion Post in Pleasantville, she believed that would be the best place to receive her stripes.
Rempy flew in from Washington, D.C., to promote her friend in front of a full ballroom at the Legion. Tracy’s parents each took a shoulder in which to pin the stripes on her.
“It’s what she wanted to do,” father Bill said. “It’s been a good career for her. She’ll be able to retire pretty well.”
“I’ve always thought, even before this, she was my hero,” mother Deanna said. She also has a son who served in Iraq. Neither he nor Tracy were injured in the overseas conflict. “I figure I beat the Powerball.”
Rempy stood behind a podium on the Legion stage to praise Tracy and read comments others had contributed to say about the MDHS alum. She introduced Tracy, who immediately thanked Jesus, her family, friends and the Legion for making the ceremony possible.
“It’s not a coincidence you and I are here,” Tracy said. She believes God orchestrates things, like a giant puzzle. “God puts those pieces together, even if we break them.”
She shared some of the personal challenges she has faced in life. An apology was issued to her siblings, whose own milestone events often were overshadowed by becoming a “Tracy homecoming party.” Her faith has and will continue to see her through her career and life.
“Don’t give up, God is always there for us,” Tracy said. “No matter how challenging it is, He’s there to lift you up.”
Tracy was eligible to retire from the Army after 20 years. She stuck with it to earn the rank of Colonel. To retire with Colonel-level retirement pay and benefits, she must serve at least three more years. She plans to stay in Hawaii for the remainder of her service, as well as her retirement.
“I really like Hawaii,” she said. She adds that she enjoys visiting Iowa, but she would rather not spend any more winters here. As for her hometown of Melcher-Dallas, she says, “I go to Melcher to go to Northcote’s to get a tenderloin and cheese balls.”
Upon her retirement, she plans to dedicate more time helping the VA facility in Oahu feel like more of a home for the vets who live there. Tracy already dedicates time to helping those vets, as well as her local church.